". . .Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
I am home with a sick little boy this Sunday morning, and decided to take some time to write. I also decided to change the face of this blog in an attempt to make it more readable. I'd really like to change a few other things on here, but I'm not sure how yet.
This morning is bright, sunny, and mild. The forecast, however, is for rain or snow. We have had a very mild winter for this section of Canada. The temperature has rarely gone below zero (Fahrenheit), and I think we've had just about as much rain as snow. On a sunny morning like this the outside world looks fine, like spring is coming early. But on cloudy days it looks dreary, dismal, gray and ugly.
The other day I was commenting on this to my children. The skies were threatening, but the thermometer suggested rain rather than snow. A trailerload of mostly trashy stuff from our old house sits in the side yard, and evidence suggests that the wind, small children, or both have been scattering some of it. The ground around the new well is muddy, with the tracks of heavy equipment still scarring the yard. A branch of the big spruce hangs by a bit of bark, nearly broken off by the well digger. More branches, broken off completely, are piled next to the garage. The garden plot plowed last fall is humpy with lumps of broken sod. Parts of rabbit hutches sit here and there, waiting to be repaired. The front porch sags, the side deck is rotting away, the garage leans to one side. The garage door doesn't shut, so the opening is covered with a blue tarp. What snow is left looks old and tired and dirty. Mud, brown grass, and the remains of dead flowers poke through, and most of the yard is a soggy mess.
Looking out at all this, I said to my children, "Oh, if it would only snow! A clean blanket of fresh snow would cover up all this ugliness and make the yard look pretty again."
But, of course, that would only be a temporary fix. Sooner or later the snow must all melt, and the yard--and all the debris in it--will be exposed for all to see. What this place really needs is a good cleaning and a bit of landscaping. The house needs repaired in many places, and the garage needs to be replaced with a new one (as part of the addition planned to enlarge the place). The trash needs hauled away or burned, the flower beds need cleaned out, the garden needs raked and planted. I could probably name a dozen other things that need done. The yard work will take a few days or so of everyone pitching in. The improvements on the house will take much longer, possibly a few years, to get it all finished.
Do you see the lesson in this? Often there are ugly things in our spiritual lives that we really need to clear away. But this takes work--often hard, painful work--as we take a good honest look at ourselves in the light of God's Word. Sometimes we'd just rather cover up the bad with a blanket good works. But sooner or later, the good works begin to melt away and the ugly parts of our lives start poking through again. Piling on another layer of good works never really works because those kinds of good works can't last. Snow can't stand the heat of the sun because it is not alive and has no root in the ground. Similarly, our hypocritical good works cannot last because they are not rooted in faith and love for God.
We need to strip away the hypocrisy in our lives and humble ourselves under the hand of God. We need to get at the heart of the matter, which is unconfessed sin and pride. All the rubbish needs to be cleared away to make room for spiritual fruit and good works that last because they are rooted in faith. Sometimes this involves a simple apology, taking only a few minutes' time. Sometimes this involves a bit more time when restitution needs to be made in some way. Then there are the things that have piled up here and there over time. These often are harder to deal with, and may require a complete overhauling and remodeling of our hearts and lives. Attitudes of bitterness, selfishness, pride, impatience, laziness, an unforgiving spirit--these don't usually go away overnight. They may take weeks, months, even years to overcome. We may not ever completely overcome them. There may be a constant fight lasting a lifetime. But little by little, if we keep at it, we will see God working in our lives to make us more like His Son and less like the ugly mess we used to be.
Remember this: The best position in which to pull out dead weeds and plant new flowers is on your knees.
God's grace to you,